West Bromwich Albion 1 - Tottenham Hotspur 1
A game of two subs
Top spot in the Premier League was there for the taking thanks to Manchester City only drawing with Everton, but Spurs were denied it by Albion at the Hawthorns. The Baggies fielded an unchanged lineup from the draw at Sunderland, with Darren Fletcher recovering from the knock he picked up on International duty.
It should come as no surprise that Spurs dominated the possession, and Albion had Ben Foster to thank for making it to half time with a clean sheet. The game finally swung Albion's way when Chris Brunt made a welcome return to action, replacing Matt Phillips who'd swapped wings with James McClean, and Albion enjoyed a spell of possession and corners that culminated in Nacer Chadli, inevitably, squeezing the ball in with eight minutes to play.
Albion had been readying Hal Robson-Kanu to come on until the goal went in, but changed their minds and brought Craig Gardner on for Chadli instead, presumably to hang on to the win. It didn't work, they sat deeper and Spurs took advantage, Dele Alli getting the final touch on a loose ball to rescue a point.
Albion end the day in tenth place with an encouraging ten points from eight games.
On our side not a lot to report on as I think we clocked under 30% possession. First half as everyone knows Foster was brilliant and kept us in it. Spurs could've been out of sight.
Second half we were a bit better - I agree with any observations made that Brunt's introduction improved us considerably because I don't think he gave the ball away in the 20 minutes he was on. Apart from Chadli I don't think any other Albion player could make that claim.
His demonstration to teammates that it is possible to keep the ball in tricky situations seemed to help them all. Fletcher, who was pretty terrible up until that point (I think Yacob would agree), finally began to show a bit of quality.
After we'd ridden the storm of the first half, perhaps we were in a good position to win it in a rope-a-dope way with Spurs seemingly running out of gas.
Without wishing to be a bit churlish, because this was a great point against a very good team, once again I think the introduction of Gardner welcomed Spurs onto us at a time when they looked finished. This is not a criticism of Gardner - more that bringing on a defensive player at that stage, having seen the same tactic fail against a side as bad as Sunderland in our last game.
Chadli is the kind of player who can hold the ball longer than others, slow the game down, kill time and also offer a threat if the opposition over commits. We might have held out if he'd have stayed on the pitch.
Hey-ho. A bonus point in the end and the players showed fantastic spirit and effort.
Point-a-game momentum building
All the talk from the backroom staff over the international break had been about building momentum and so expectations, as regards a change in approach after two ponderous draws against bottom of the table opposition in a row, might surely have been high, however, "as any fule kno", momentum is a product of velocity and mass, so if you aren't ever going to play with any pace then you can still always claim to be increasing momentum by increasing mass although, against Spurs, Nyom, our massive right-footed left back once again started the game, as Albion looked to maintain the mass in their momentum with the same side that had ended the previous game giving up two points to the bottom of the table side, having threatened, oh so briefly, to have "nicked all three" .
A largely fitful, somnolent game rolled over and tugged on the duvet after 81 minutes, after Albion gained momentum from having two corners in a row and Chadli was first to react to a half-stop allowing him to fire into the roof of the net, although given that he'd hardly ever featured for his previous club, his "refusual to celebrate" left the TV commentators a bit baffled.
Perhaps his subdued state was, however, upmost in our manager's mind, when taking the view that, despite scoring, Chadli wasn't going to carry on and build up any momentum and so he was soon replaced, with an addition to the mass of our massed defence, in the shape of Gardner.
The change merely served to hand even more of the momemtum to a Spurs side whose irresitible force had, until then, found Foster, once again at his immovable, keeping the Albion in the game objective, best, however, despite massing ten men in the box, it simply wasn't enough to prevent Alli from wrong-footing McClean, by then our winger on the goal-line, and levelling the scores.
There was just enough time left, as there was in the previous game where a side set up by Pulis had failed to hold on to a lead, for Evans to have to drag down a player who had all but got past him and so allow Foster to pull off one final fine save before it was time for the manager's apologists to step forwards and start telling us that a side that gives the ball away twice for every five times they try and make a pass, not that they try to make all that many of course, should be considered as unlucky not to have "nicked all three points" once again.
Nice to see Brunt return from injury, although whether the thought of a player, who had pretty much been consigned to a left-back's role before that injury, being brought on to replace your side's pretty ineffectual right-winger adds much more to the joy of the occasion will depend on whether you think the likes of Leko need to go out on loan, a bit lower down, a bit longer, so as to be worthy of injecting some pace towards the end of our matches, whilst also being mindful of their defensive duties.
So, Albion drop into the bottom half of the table, ahead of their visit to Liverpool, no doubt with memories of that game plan that included their hosts missing a penalty, still a very fond one.
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